Tropical latitudes of the Indo-Pacific Ocean, from east Africa to Hawaii
Coral reefs and associated sand flats
Class Gastropoda (snails and slugs), Family Ranellidae (tritons)
The giant triton is a very large marine snail that can reach sizes of one and a half feet long (0.5 m). This species is also known as Triton’s Trumpet, named for the son (Triton) of the Greek god of the sea (Poseidon) and the fact that the shell can be used to make trumpet-like sounds.
The giant triton is an active predator and is known to aggressively chase its prey, which it detects with its excellent sense of smell. Though the chase may seem slow to human observers, the giant triton is known for relatively high speeds, especially for a snail. It prefers to eat other snails and sea stars, most notably the crown-of-thorns starfish. Large outbreaks of the crown-of-thorn starfish, which feed on reef-building corals, are known to threaten the health of coral reefs. The giant triton is one of the only natural predators of that starfish. For that reason, this species is considered by the Australian government to be extremely important to reef health and is given legal protection in that country and others. Once the giant triton chases down a snail or starfish, its venomous saliva paralyzes the prey.
The giant triton reproduces through internal fertilization, and the female lays her sticky eggs on the sand, where they quickly become covered with sand and other material, offering them camouflage and protection from egg predators.
Though the giant triton is thought to be a key species in limiting potential outbreaks of the crown-of-thorns starfish, it is collected at many places around the world because its shell is valuable as a trade good. They are often sold in shops or markets in popular tourism destinations in the tropics.
Oceana joined forces with Sailors for the Sea, an ocean conservation organization dedicated to educating and engaging the world’s boating community. Sailors for the Sea developed the KELP (Kids Environmental Lesson Plans) program to create the next generation of ocean stewards. Click here or below to download hands-on marine science activities for kids.